The official celebration of Asian (American) Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage began in 1978. The original celebration was to acknowledge the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States in May 1843 and the contributions of Chinese workers to the transcontinental railroad, completed in May 1869. The celebration was originally the first ten days of May, but in 1990 it was extended to last for the entire month.
In light of the increased attacks on Asian Americans, it is especially important to recognize and uplift the accomplishments of the AAPI community, which are too often left out of the spotlight.
Not all of the creators of the books, films, music, etc. in this list below are Americans, but we would still like to celebrate the media that has been influential in our lives that was made by Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander creators.
This month (and every month), experience some of these amazing works by AAPI creators and give them the recognition they deserve.
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan - A moving story about a girl grappling with her mother’s suicide, traveling to Taiwan, and finding herself through her family’s history.
Learning from an Unimportant Minority by J. Sakai – This is an abbreviated history of the racialization of Japanese Americans as necessitated by the demands of US capitalism. Sakai is himself a Japanese American and was born in an Internment camp.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara - The story of Jude’s life—one that is wrought with mental illness and suicidal ideation. It’s crushing to read and incredibly well-written.
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka - A relatively easy read that follows the experiences of a child and her family during WWII-era Japanese internment.
Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen - Synopsis: “Cutting between clear-eyed realism and tongue-in-cheek magical realism, Chen's stories coalesce into a portrait of a people striving for openings where mobility is limited…”
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng - A story about family dynamics, mystery, and loss, all in one.
Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong - A poetry collection from the author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous about all of life’s wonders: romance, grief, memory, and more.
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He - A young adult fantasy novel inspired by Chinese history about power and justice.
The Half of It dir. Alice Wu
Nomadland dir. Chloé Zhao
Parasite dir. Bong Joon-ho
A Silent Voice dir. Naoko Yamada
The Farewell dir. Lulu Wang
Sound of Metal starring Riz Ahmed
All In My Family dir. Hao Wu
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj
Master of None by Aziz Ansari
Fresh Off the Boat
The Mindy Project
Ronny Chieng - Asian Comedian Destroys America
Rina Sawayama - SAWAYAMA
Haley Heynderickx - I Need to Start a Garden
Cory Wong - Motivational Music for the Syncopated Soul
Mitski - Bury Me At Makeout Creek
H.E.R. - H.E.R.
Raveena - Moonstone EP
UMI - Love Language
REI AMI - THAT’S ON YOU!
beabadoobee - Fake It Flowers
Toro y Moi - Outer Peace
Artists and creators on social media
Chanel Miller (@chanel_miller on Instagram) - author of Know My Name and a comic and mural artist.
Yayoi Kusama - artist famous for her magical “Infinity Room” installations
Ghinko (@ghinkos) - tattoo artist and general artist who focuses on art and tattoo as therapy
House of Ninja (@iconichouseofninja on Instagram) - Ballroom house featured on the HBO Max original Legendary
Kahmora Hall (@kahmorahall on Instagram) - Chicago drag queen who competed on RuPaul's Drag Race Season 13
Annabelle Gao (@pyperbleu on Instagram) - artist and YouTube vlogger
Kiki Wong (@kikiwongo on Instagram) - heavy metal guitarist
@cocokind - a skincare brand
Although it is no longer May, it is still imperative that we acknowledge, celebrate, and uplift the AAPI community, particularly in light of the increased number of hate crimes against them in the last year. While AAPI Heritage Month has ended, advocacy and support are not meant to be limited to one month — they must be year-round.